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March 19, 2024 41 mins

The Western Roman Empire was conquered by Odoacer, who styled himself as the "King of Italy." But the leader of the Ostrogoths, a warrior named Theodoric, would challenge Odoacer for supremacy. But were both men just playing into the hands of the Eastern Roman Emperor?

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to Noble Blood, a production of iHeartRadio and Grimm
and Mild from Aaron Manky Listener discretion advised. For two
and a half years, the Italian city of Revenna had

(00:21):
been in a living hell, under siege by the king
of the Visigoths, Theodoric the Great. Theodoric would hold the
city in siege for as long as it took. His
greatest enemy, Odoasser, the King of Italy, was hiding in
Revenna with what was left of his army. Theodoric had

(00:42):
him surrounded. He had been surrounded for two and a
half years. It was only a matter of time, But
in the meantime, Revenna was suffering starvation, gripped the streets,
Plagues haunted whole neighborhoods. Even an earthquake erupted in the
middle of town, as though God himself were showing just

(01:04):
how folly it was to hope that the siege would end.
But on February twenty fifth, four hundred and ninety three,
the citizens of Ravina finally saw a glimmer of hope.
Oduasser finally emerged from his foxhole. He sent word to
Theodoric to begin negotiations. After a week, plenty of concessions

(01:30):
and even the begging of a bishop, the two men
came to an agreement they would rule Italy together. The
crowds of Ravenna erupted in celebration. The siege was over.
Not all, hope was lost after all. Theodoric entered the
city at the head of a procession and the two

(01:53):
leaders finally met in person. The two men collaborated together
to determine what this knew Italy would look like in
Italy with co rulers in Italy of peace. Ten days
after Theodoric entered the city, Oduaser was taking a stroll
outside one of his palaces. On his stroll, two beggars

(02:16):
approached him, and they implored their lord to offer a
blessing or alms. Before Oduaser could even respond, the two
beggars pulled aside their cloaks and seized Oduaser by his arms.
Soldiers poured out hidden among the street, and they cut
down Oduaser's bodyguards. Oduaser was surprised to find that none

(02:39):
of the attackers had specifically attacked him. His guards were dead,
but he wasn't yet. The men were keeping him alive
for now, but why. The answer came quickly. Someone specific
wanted to be the one to cut him down. Out
of the darkness. A figure of approached wielding a sword.

(03:02):
Oduaser saw his own death written all over the face
of his assassin. He just didn't expect the face to
look so familiar. I'm Danish Schwartz and this is noble blood.
In five hundred and eleven, a few decades after Oduaser

(03:24):
was assassinated, an Italian monk took to compiling the memories
of his music master, Saint Severinus. Severinus was renowned as
a holy man in his lifetime, a devoted ascetic with
mysterious origins. When the Western Roman Empire collapsed in four
hundred and seventy six, Severinus accepted refugees into his monastery.

(03:48):
He fed the poor and clothed the sick. The monk
Eugippius was resolved to document and commemorate those selfless acts.
But there was more to Severiz than his generosity. The
holy man, like other early saints, professed seeing visions of
the future. Eugippius wrote that sometime before the collapse of

(04:12):
the Western Roman Empire, Severihinus met with a ragtag band
of warriors who were crossing into Austria. They were led
by a skinny young man in shabby clothes who bore
the name Odoacer Gothic for he who maintains his property,
a stately name for such a poor traveler. Supposedly, according

(04:36):
to the writings of Eugyppius, Saint Severihinus took Odoacer aside
and proclaimed a vision that this unknown warrior would one
day rule as king of Rome. We can't know what
impression this left on the young man, or even if
the interaction happened at all, but if it did, we

(04:59):
might get that Odoacer went on his way believing, probably
like every other ambitious warrior of his age, that destiny
was on his side. Odoacer was born in four hundred
and thirty three. His exact origins are unknown, but we
do know that he learned to fight and lead with

(05:20):
the Hunnic army that sat menacingly on the Roman Empire's borders.
The Huns subjected many of the ethnic groups that the
Romans referred to as quote barbarians, and like other imperial overlords,
they found a way of recruiting soldiers and even lieutenants
from those same subjugated populations. Oduwaser's father, Ettica, happened to

(05:45):
be one of those lieutenants. He was considered such a
valuable ally to the Huns that he was eventually made
a member of Attila the Hun's prestigious personal bodyguard. When
the Roman emperor solicited Ata's support to assassinate Attila, Ettica
loyal soldier that he was alerted Attila of the conspiracy.

(06:09):
Oduaser turned up in Italy by the time he was
twenty eight. The Italian peninsula had gone through some major
shifts in the last two hundred years, and it is
incredibly complicated, but to simplify for the sake of this podcast,
the Italian peninsula had formerly been the beating heart of
a vast and dominant Roman Empire. But the Italy that

(06:33):
Oduaser entered was one in perpetual crisis, where generals competed
against one another to prop up their own emperors as figureheads.
The armies that fought in these crises were the very
barbarian warriors that the Romans had demonized in centuries prior.
In the five years from four hundred seventy one to

(06:56):
four hundred seventy six, the Western Empire gained and lost
five emperors. I say Western Empire here because in three
hundred ninety five the Roman Empire was split into two
parts with two separate imperial courts to make it easier
to manage. People at the time wouldn't have called themselves

(07:18):
Eastern or Western. Those are only terms we use now
looking back anyway. In the summer of four hundred and
seventy five, the most recent general to win out in
the Western Empire was a Roman aristocrat named Arrestes. He
took control of the capital of the Western Empire, Ravenna.

(07:38):
Arrestes elected his own son, Romulus, who was not older
than fourteen, as emperor in the West. But Arrestes's army
was only loyal as long as he was paying them,
and eventually, when Arrestes wasn't able to confiscate and dole
out land from Roman landowners, who he also relied on,

(08:00):
his army grew restless and decided to choose another general
to support. They chose Oduacer. On August twenty eighth, four
hundred and seventy six, an army of defected warriors led
by Odoacer captured Arrestes and defeated his remaining troops Oduaser

(08:21):
swarmed the capital city of Ravenna and packed up the
fourteen year old Emperor Romulus so he could live out
the rest of his days in the countryside of southern Italy.
Nothing up until this point was out of the ordinary.
As usual, a barbarian warrior led a coalition of troops,
deposed the emperor and captured the capital city. All that

(08:45):
was left to do for Oduaser was for him to
nominate his own puppet emperor or assume the title himself.
It would be difficult for the Roman senate at the
time to stomach Oduaser as the emperor, being an illiterate northerner,
but surprisingly it never came to that. Odoacer's men hailed

(09:06):
him as King of Italy, and he happily accepted that title.
The title king was a convenient way of justifying his
rule over Italy without alienating a potential ally in the East.
Oduaser styled himself as a vassal of the Eastern Roman
Emperor Zeno. A king, after all, was supposed to be

(09:30):
less powerful than an emperor. But as much as Odoaser
wanted to retain the status quo, there was no getting
around the fact that something significant, unprecedented had just occurred.
Italy had never been ruled by a king, a vassal
of the Eastern Roman Emperor. After four hundred and fifty years,

(09:52):
the Western Roman Empire had been formally swept away by
a little known, illiterate man from the north. The year
four hundred and seventy six has been treated by scholars
as the end of a chapter in Roman history. In
many traditional Western histories, it's treated as the end of

(10:12):
the classical era and the beginning of the Medieval era,
the fall of the Roman Empire, But in fact the
abolition of the Western Empire didn't really change much in
the everyday lives of peasants, merchants, or even elites. Italy
certainly wasn't any more stable after this slight political shift.

(10:34):
Oduwaser ruled on shaky foundations. He led a multi ethnic
confederation of soldiers that were only loyal to him so
long as he provided them land. He had no remarkable
reputation as a warrior in his own right. Some upstarts
in his army thought themselves better and launched mutinies in

(10:54):
four hundred and seventy seven and four hundred seventy eight
Zeno understood better than anyone that Odoacer didn't really intend
to obey the Eastern Empire. Zeno Eggdon, a nearby Germanic king,
to launch an attack against Odoacer. The attack failed, but

(11:15):
rather than retaliating against Zeno, Odoacer sent a portion of
his spoils to Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Empire,
in a show of peace. It didn't matter. If Zeno
couldn't assert control over Italy this way, he would surely
find another way. There is another version of the Saint

(11:37):
Severinus prophecy story, one with an additional prediction that, even
if it were true, he probably wouldn't have told the
young Odoacer. In that version, Severihinus predicted that the future
king wouldn't rule Italy longer than fourteen years, either by

(11:58):
coincidence or by intelligent design, or by most likely fake
sources changed after the fact. Odoacer lost the throne in
exactly the fourteenth year of his rule to a man
who had the support of a prophecy of his own.

(12:18):
Before they even ever met. Odoacer's story was strangely intermingled
with theodoricx Odowasser's father, Edica, eventually left the Huntic army
to lead his own band of warriors. So did Theodoric's uncle,
an Ostrogoth ruler, who settled in Pannonia or what is
now the North Balkans after the death of Attila the Hunt.

(12:41):
Theodoric was born on the banks of a small sea
in what is now the easternmost part of Austria. His father, Twidemir,
was a royal, but his mother was a concubine, though
that mixed lineage never posed a problem for the Ostrogoths.
For Theodoric's family, all that mattered and a king was

(13:01):
that he had some claim to royal lineage and that
he could fight. Theodomir and his brother Valimir almost certainly
fought in their own battles, a compelling symbol of their
right to rule. In contrast to Roman emperors at the time,
who deferred to their generals from the comfort of their
seaside palaces, the brothers Valimir and Theodomir had more than

(13:26):
just cultural reasons to detest their more powerful Roman neighbors.
According to a new treaty, the Ostrogoths would be allowed
to settle on Roman land and would be given three
hundred pounds of gold per year, but in return they
would need to send a male hostage of royal descent,

(13:46):
someone who the Romans could use as leverage in case
future negotiations ever went south. Valimir didn't have a son,
so he called upon his brother to make the sacrifice.
The seven year old Theotre Doric was chosen to live
in Constantinople for what would end up being a decade.
Constantinople in the fifth century was the most cosmopolitan city

(14:11):
in the Mediterranean, home to hundreds of thousands of inhabitants,
dozens of languages, and several creeds. In Theodoric's youth, he
learned to read and write not only in Latin, but
also in Greek. He attended the imperial court, witnessed Roman ceremonies,
and learned to keep his heretical faith secret. Roman citizens

(14:36):
couldn't quite decide what to make of Theodoric. He was
a Gothic boy from a barbarian family of war lords
who could also recite prose in Latin. Though while Theodoric
was making an impression in the imperial capital, his uncle
and father existed in a constant state of warfare. It

(14:56):
was Roman imperial policy to pit the Germanic tribes of
Pannonia against one another. In the most recent cycle of violence,
the Shii conducted raids against the Ostrogoths in the mid
four hundred and sixties. It was during one such trade
that Theodoric's uncle Valimir reportedly fell from his horse and died.

(15:18):
Theodoric's father, Theodomir, took the throne and in four hundred
and sixty nine, in revenge, besieged the Sharian stronghold of Bolia,
winning despite opposition from the Eastern Roman emperor. In a
twist of fate, at the same time, it was Oduaser's father, Edica,

(15:39):
who was leading the Shii, while Theodoric's father obviously was
leading the Ostrogoths. Edica, Oduaser's father, was killed in that battle, and,
according to some sources and sources that I'm sure would
make an excellent scene in a biopic, Oduwasser witnessed the
death of his father on the battle field. Theodomir won

(16:02):
Pannonia for the Ostrogoths, but that victory was tainted by
the fact that Pannonia didn't have much fertile land for
his people to settle on. He left in four hundred
and seventy to conduct raids in the north. When he
returned a year later, he was surprised to find his son, Theodoric,
released from captivity. At seventeen years old. Theodoric was no

(16:26):
longer a scrawny boy, but the spitting image of a young,
capable leader. Without his father's knowledge, Theodoric raised a force
of six thousand warriors and single handedly crushed the nearby
Sarmatian people, personally killing their king. Whether or not we
can trust that exaggerated account, what's clear is that Theodoric

(16:50):
was eager to prove himself in the eyes of his
Gothic family. Clearly, ten years in the imperial capital did
not dampen his resolve to lead his own people, even
if that meant, or perhaps especially if it meant spilling
blood with his own hands. Decades later, Theodoric would trace

(17:10):
the start of his own reign to that victory over
the Sarmatians. It's no small feat that Theodoric assumed leadership
over the Ostrogoths unopposed when his father died in four
hundred and seventy four. It's even more remarkable that Theodoric
held his position despite the constant poverty and insecurity his

(17:32):
people faced. There was never enough fertile land in Pannonia
or Macedonia for them to grow crops or feed livestock.
The situation was so bad that Theodoric's uncle Vidimir had
taken his own tribe westward in hopes of greener pastures.
If Theodoric was to feed and clothe his army of

(17:54):
ten thousand warriors, he would need to win imperial favor.
That would prove a difficult task, especially because there was
another Gothic king, a man named Strabo, who was in
the picture. Some years earlier. Strabo won an annual shipment
of two thousand pounds of gold after intimidating Constantinople, almost

(18:18):
as much as Attila the hun had once received in tribute.
The Eastern emperor also bequeathed Strabo with the title Supreme
Commander of the Goths, which Theodoric did not take particularly well.
An opportunity presented itself to Theodoric in four hundred and
seventy four, when the sitting emperor died and a succession

(18:40):
crisis unfolded between two upstarts. Strabo had thrown his support
behind the losing party, and Theodoric, either by luck or prophecy,
happened to choose the winning one, a man we've already
met Zeno. When Zeno took control of the Eastern Empire
in fours one hundred and seventy six, Zeno immediately deposed

(19:03):
Strabo and elevated Theodoric to the position of supreme commander
of the Goths, and even adopted Theodoric as his quote
son in arms. But nice as they were, none of
those tokens of support meant that the Ostrogoths were free
from want. Around four hundred and seventy seven, Zeno ordered

(19:25):
Theodoric to crush Strabo, who was holed up in a
mountain pass, and in return, Zeno would give Theodoric enough
grain for his people to last the winter. Zeno promised
the Ostrogoths Roman soldiers, but when Theodoric came to the
field of battle, the imperial forces were nowhere to be found.

(19:46):
Zeno had lied, but Theodoric was intent on continuing the fight. Strabo,
on the other hand, offered terms of peace, and Theodoric's
followers implored their leader not to engage in battle again
people they considered their kin. Theodoric's forty thousand troops laid
down their arms, and the two Gothic leaders issued joint

(20:10):
demands against Zeno for grain and status. Zeno was furious
and frightened at the possibility of a united enemy. He
sent messengers promising one thousand pounds of gold and ten
thousand pounds of silver in addition to his daughter's hand
in marriage, if Theodoric could defeat Strabo. Theodoric refused, but

(20:34):
Zeno made a similar offer to Strabo in secret, which was,
unfortunately for Theodoric accepted. From four hundred and seventy seven
to four hundred and eighty, Theodoric had lost his title
as a supreme commander, he lost his ability to feed

(20:54):
his people, and he lost his lucrative alliance with the
Eastern Roman Empire. His people were on the run, traveling
in baggage trains that allegedly stretched for miles, pillaging cities
for survival along their trail. In four hundred and eighty,
a Roman general successfully raided Theodoric's baggage train, capturing some

(21:16):
two thousand wagons and five thousand prisoners, nearly abducting Theodoric's
own mother and brother. But the following year, Theodoric's fortunes reversed.
Strabo accidentally fell from his horse and impaled himself on
a lance while riding. Suddenly, his Gothic coalition descended into chaos,

(21:41):
and even though Strabo's son won some control over what remained,
there was no doubt that theodoricx Ostrogoths were the most
powerful players in the region. Again, Zeno had no option
but to court Theodoric's favor. He once again granted Theodoric
the title of Supreme Commander in four hundred and eighty three,

(22:03):
and even elevated him to the prestigious position of Roman
Consul in four hundred and eighty four, which was the
highest possible distinction that a Goth could receive from the Empire,
but just to make his status secure, just in case,
Theodoric also murdered Strabo's son in broad daylight. Theodoric's people

(22:25):
won permission to settle the fertile land to the west
of Constantinople, and to top it all off, Xeno erected
a statue of Theodoric atop a battle horse right in
the center of the imperial castle. But as expected, the
fickle Zeno once again changed his mind, worried that Theodoric

(22:46):
might betray him, and he sent an army against Theodoric
in four hundred and eighty five. Theodoric responded by pillaging
nearby towns and even besieging Constantinople, going so far as
cutting off the city's drinking water. In four hundred and
eighty eight, the two leaders finally came together and recognized

(23:08):
that they could not both occupy the same territory in peace.
It would be better for everyone if Theodoric took his
roaming Gothic army out west. Zeno had wanted to depose
Oduasser for some time, and who better to do the
job than the unrelenting Ostrogoth Theodoric. Two birds with one stone.

(23:30):
If Theodoric successfully defeated Oduaser, Zeno would grant him the
illustrious title of Patricius, a status normally reserved for the
most elite Roman citizens. In truth, Theodoric didn't need all
that much convincing to leave. Even when times were good,
the emperor's payments only came irregularly. His people continued to

(23:54):
go hungry in infertile pastures. Many of them were uprooted
from these sedentary lives of their forefathers. Theodoric knew better
than any leader that the only thing worse than a
hungry population was a hungry population with no one to
fight and nowhere to go. According to the Chronicles, which
should always be taken with a grain of salt, Theodoric

(24:18):
set out from Macedonia at the head of one hundred
thousand people. While we refer to all of them as Ostrogoths,
they were in fact a motley mix of displaced people,
many Germanic who scraped by to survive in times of
nearly constant crisis. Some of them may have been lured

(24:38):
by the growing legend of Theodoric, the man who had
slayed a king as a teenager and brought the city
of Constantinople to its knees. To contemporaries, Theodoric was a
fairly unique leader, not quite a Barbarian king and not
quite a Roman prince. We can imagine that Theodoric r

(25:00):
his renown. He marched the thousand kilometers into Italy, intent
on fulfilling his destiny. In the dead of winter four
hundred and eighty eight, Oduasser, king of Italy, received a
message that sent a shiver down his spine. To the
northeast of Italy, a Germanic people known as the Gepids

(25:24):
ruled an independent kingdom, which they proudly defended after decades
of Hunnik rule and Roman incursions. Unfortunately for the Gepids,
they lived on the road to Italy. Oduaser got a
message that an army of about twenty thousand warriors commissioned
by the Emperor Zeno crushed the once proud Gepid people

(25:47):
and killed their king. Odoacer knew what was coming next.
Zeno would certainly be sending an army to dethrone him.
That much was clear when the emperor refined used Odoacer's
white flags, which came to Constantinople in the form of
chests of gold. But what Odoacer could not have predicted

(26:11):
was that the famed warmonger Theodoric was at the army's
helm at the battle against the Gepids in four hundred
and eighty eight. When it seemed like the Goths might lose,
Theodoric heroically led the charge that turned the tides. The
fifth century bishop Inodius wrote an embellished account of the

(26:32):
battle addressed directly to Theodoric. As a torrent devastates crops,
as a lion devastates flocks, So did you devastate no
one who met you could resist or escape your pursuit.
You were transported everywhere as the spears ran out, Yet
your rage still grew for you, venerable one who has

(26:54):
sought out the savior of battle, unaccompanied, drove forward, Fortified
by thousands, Oduacer wasted no time preparing for what he
knew was an incoming invasion. He fortified a bridge over
the river Isonzo, which Theodoric would need to pass in
order to reach Italy proper, but that didn't do much

(27:15):
to slow the invaders. Oduaser retreated to the city of Verona,
but there too, the Ostrogoths overwhelmed Odoaser's forces. One of
our few sources for an account of the battle comes
from that bishop and Odius, but his text is particularly
problematic because not only was he not an eyewitness to

(27:37):
the events, but his intention for writing at all was
to make Theodoric fit the mold of Greek and Roman
heroes from legends past, like Achilles in the Iliad. Before
the Battle of Verona, Theodoric turns to his mother and
sister to bid them farewell, where he presents himself as
a selfless hero duty bound to make good on his

(28:01):
family's royal name. It looks like the battle might be
won by Odoaser's forces, but Theodoric's arrival once again personally
turned the tide. But Odoacer managed to wriggle free from
his enemy's grasp and live to fight another day. At
this point, it seemed to most observers that Theodoric would

(28:23):
surely conquer all of Italy. Opportunistic warlords took advantage of
Odoacer's weakness to invade Sicily in the south and the
Alps in the north. Even Odowasser's chief general briefly defected
to Theodoric's side. Archaeologists have excavated coins from this period

(28:44):
during Oduaser's rule. These silver pieces bear a portrait of
a bare headed king entitled Flavius Oduaser, meaning Odouaser, servant
of the Emperor. No Germanic king before him had minted
silver coins, let alone coins in the style of the
Roman Empire. Meanwhile, Oduaser elevated his son Thela to the

(29:08):
position of caesar of the West. Now some of this
is a little strange. Why would Oduaser be concerning himself
with the prestige of coins and titles at the very
moment that control was very literally slipping from his grasp.
Did he truly believe that the prophecy was on his side,

(29:29):
that he would in the end prevail, Or did he decide,
after suffering defeat after defeat that if he couldn't actually
have an empire to himself, he could at least pretend
through trappings. Any chances Oduaser had of victory were crushed.

(29:52):
On August eleventh, four hundred and ninety one year from
the start of the invasion, the two sides met at
a river outside Milan, and both suffered enormous losses in
a battle that Theodoric technically won. The Ostrogoths pursued Oduaser
all the way to his capital city, Ravena, where they

(30:14):
established a camp in a pine grove just outside the
city walls. There was no way Theodoric could storm the city,
which sat in the middle of the lagoon, so he
dug in for a siege. He ordered his army to
block all land routes to the city, cutting off access
to food and water. Meanwhile, his men, as with many

(30:36):
other invading armies in Italy's history, rampaged across the nearby countryside,
searching for supplies and families to enslave. We can't accurately
portray the toll that the invasion took on the people
living in Italy at the time, but some sources refer
to their suffering in passing mass famines in the north,

(31:00):
Thousands abducted and held for ransom, Whole cities displaced by
pillaging warriors on both sides. Those that fled for their
lives mainly ended up in Rome, but the Church could
feed only so many hungry mouths. Rumors spread like wildfire
that the war signaled the coming of the Antichrist. Needless

(31:23):
to say, these accounts temper the usual depiction of Theodoric
as a great and selfless, almost godlike ruler. In fact,
like all other kings of the era, he was just
as ruthless, just as power hungry, and just as callous
as the worst of them. That was a lesson that

(31:44):
Oduaser was about to learn. The siege that started in
the summer of four hundred and ninety became utterly intolerable
for the citizens of Ravena by the middle of four
hundred and ninety two, when Theodore Yorick used ships to
block the city's access to the sea, it was official

(32:06):
the city was fully surrounded. No supplies were getting in
or out, and the city barely had enough to last
the year. It's reported that at the start of four
hundred and ninety three, the citizens of Ravena resorted to
eating weeds and leather. Oduwaser requested to begin negotiations in February,

(32:30):
though Theodoric would only agree if Oduwaser sent his son
Theyla as a hostage. What choice did Oduaser have. He
sent his son, and bargaining commenced on February twenty fifth,
four hundred and ninety three. Messengers scurried back and forth
between Ravena and Theodoric's encampment. Even the local bishop traveled

(32:52):
between both sides, imploring both men for an end to
the hostilities. After nearly four years of civil war in Italy,
of pillaged towns and scorched fields, Theodoric and Odoacer came
to an agreement they would resurrect the Western Roman Empire
and rule it jointly. On March fifth, Theodoric and his

(33:15):
retinue paraded into Ravena, no doubt full of applauding citizens
hopeful for the future. Perhaps it was an especially meaningful
day for the few followers who remembered that Theodoric's father
had defeated and possibly killed Odoacer's father in battle some
three decades before history did not have to repeat itself.

(33:40):
Vendettas could turn into truces, sieges, into celebrations. The two
co emperors communicated daily in the first week of this
new chapter in Roman history. In the midst of the buzz,
Oduaser decided to visit a palace in the city known
as the Laurel Grove. This was March fifteenth. As he

(34:04):
was taking a stroll, Odoacer was approached by two shrouded
beggars who were asking for help from their imperial master. But,
as you might recall from the introduction, before he could respond,
the two men grabbed his arms, and a swarm of
Ostrogothic soldiers made quick work of Odoacer's bodyguards. Then, out

(34:29):
of the shadows, a middle aged man appeared with the
sword drawn. It was Theodoric himself. The famed warrior took
his blade and slashed Oduaser from the collar bone to
the hip, at which point Oduaser yelled out, where is God.
According to one probably apocryphal source, Theodoric murdered Oduaser, his

(34:55):
co emperor, in a single stroke, as predicted by Saint Severinus.
Odoacer's reign as king of Italy ended after fourteen years. Strangely,
it's reported that Theodoric shouted, this is exactly what you
did to my relatives at the dying Oduacer. We have

(35:17):
no record of Oduaser killing a relative of Theodorics. Instead,
we do have a record of Theodoric's father killing Odoacer's father.
In all likelihood, Theodoric was using whatever justification he could
to carry out the execution. In fact, the assassination was
just one part in a meticulously planned massacre in which

(35:42):
Oduaser's chief lieutenants were all shot down. Within the city,
soldiers chased Oduaser's brother into a church, where they were
prevented from slaying him according to the rules of sanctuary,
but they technically didn't need to be inside the church
to kill him with arrows. Soldiers captured Odoacer's mother and

(36:04):
threw her in prison, where she died of starvation. Theodoric
released Odoacer's son, Thela, but he too was eventually hunted down.
There would be no joint rule in Theodoric's new Italy.
He had spent too long managing his relationships with anxious
emperors and fickle allies. After all, a Gothic king proved

(36:29):
his right to rule by the blood on his hands,
not the treaties he signed. And what greater show of
might than to bend prophecy to your will. That's the

(36:51):
story of Odoacer and Theodoric. But keep listening after a
brief sponsor break to hear a little bit more about
how Theodoric story specific evolved into one very particular folk legend.
Theodoric ruled for thirty three years after his betrayal of Oduaser.

(37:16):
Contemporary chronicles treat the new king of Italy as an
enlightened ruler. He settled his people in the north of Italy,
revived games in the Colosseum, and even rebuilt some of
Rome's monuments. He styled himself heir to the Roman imperial throne,
but never lost his mantle as king of the Ostrogoths.

(37:37):
He went as far as to conquer Spain and North Africa.
But Theodoric's legend far exceeded his century. For one thousand
years following his rule, Theodoric's legend seeped into Central European
popular culture and literature. His history slowly evolved into the

(37:58):
myth of a German hero named Dietrich von Berne. While
Theodoric came to Italy as an invader from Pannonia, the
legendary Dietrich was born in Verona and reclaimed Italy as
its rightful heir. Theodoric conquered fearsome Germanic foes on his
path to a kingdom in Italy, but those foes were

(38:21):
all merely human. Dietrich fought giants, dragons, and worms. In
some medieval texts. He has even described as a fire breather.
As with many other oral traditions, Dietrich's story intermingled with
other heroic narratives from Norse and German mythology. In one example,

(38:42):
the Germanic hero Siegfried encounters a fire breathing Dietrich as
he attempts to protect the princess crime Hilled. Stories like
this are often depicted in tapestries that once adorned the
halls of German nobility. One of Dietrich's most famous medieval
stories begins with three giants sitting around complaining over the

(39:05):
fact that Dietrich has won favor for his heroic deeds,
whereas the giants never do. A queen approaches the leader
of the giants, the giant named Ek, and requests that
he bring Dietrich to her alive for the mission. The
queen gives Ek armor and a sword, which have been
soaked in dragon blood and thereby rendered unbeatable. Ek travels

(39:30):
to the Alps and challenges Dietrich to a duel, but
our hero refuses. The giant has done him no wrong.
Eck calls him a coward, and that seals the deal.
Dietrich pounces on him, but after a prolonged fight, he
realizes that his foes dragon blood armor can't be penetrated.
According to the myth, Dietrich is forced to dishonorably stab

(39:54):
Act through a gap in his armor, at which point
the leader of the giants dies, takes the armor and
the sword for himself, and goes on to slay the
remaining two giants after him. In some stories, the queen
admits to having wanted the giant's slain all along. In another,
the last giant treacherously leads Dietrich to murder the remaining

(40:16):
giants in his family. One version of the myth an
attempt to connect the fantastical Dietrich with the historical. Theodoric
explains that the sword Dietrich one from Eck became the
very blade that Dietrich used to murder Oduaser Oduaser, mortal

(40:36):
man that he was was no match for a blade
soaked in dragon's blood and its fire breathing master. Ow

(41:00):
Blood is a production of iHeart Radio and Grimm and
Mild from Aaron Mank. Noble Blood is created and hosted
by me Dana Shworts, with additional writing and researching by
Hannah Johnston, Hannah Zwick, Mira Hayward, Courtney Sender, and Lori Goodman.
The show is edited and produced by Noemi Griffin and

(41:23):
rima Il Kahali, with supervising producer Josh Thain and executive
producers Aaron Mankey, Alex Williams, and Matt Frederick. For more
podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or
wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
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